TALKS WITH MARSHAL MONTGOMERY ON THE THREE PRINCIPLES AND THE QUESTION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS (September 1961)
Mao: Have you talked about this with Chen Yi?
Montgomery: Yes, I have.
Mao: Then, it is all right.
Montgomery: I may push it in the West, but I don't want to play a big role in the East. Moscow is in the East, so I do not want to go there. I have a very strong position in my country. If I travel too much in the Communist East, the British people will ask what has come over this chap. It will impair my position. If I want to push this matter, I must keep my position.
Mao: You position is unshakable. Your basic thought is for peace.
Montgomery: The people will follow me. They will agree with my proposition, though many people in the West disagree with your ideology.
Mao: If they disagree, then, they just don't believe in it.
Montgomery: That's right. I stand for noninterference in each others' internal affairs. Whenever Western countries run into problems, their practice is to divide one country into two. Korea, for example, and Laos and Indochina. They feel that all the problems are solved when a country is divided into two. I do not think that is right and I shall say that every country should withdraw its troops and the Koreans should decide what they want and what they do not want.
Mao: That's right.
Montgomery: This is the only reasonable way.
Nuclear Weapons Are to Scare People, Not to Use
Montgomery: Now people are discussing the question of nuclear weapons, with an argument. I have talked with President Liu Shaoqi about China's nuclear policy. Chairman, what's your view on the question?
Mao: I am not interested in nuclear weapons. They are not something to use. The more there are, the harder it will be for nuclear wars to break out. If a war breaks out, it will be a war of conventional weapons. If conventional weapons are used, the arts of war, such as strategies and tactics, can be emphasized, and commanders can change plans to suit the situation. If it is a nuclear war, it will just be a matter of pressing buttons, and the war will be over after a few presses.
Montgomery: President Liu told me that you also want to make some nuclear weapons, because the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union have them.
Mao: Yes, we are preparing to make some, but I do not know when we shall succeed. The United States has so many; it has ten fingers. Even if we succeed in making one, we shall still have just one finger. It is something to scare people, absorbing a lot of money but useless.
Montgomery: I am also thinking that perhaps you put the development of nuclear weapons among the last of your various undertakings.
Mao: That's right. We spend very little money on it. We do not have a solid economic base, with industry just beginning. The United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union have powerful industrial bases. We are like a poor man or a beggar who walks out in a beautiful suit.
Montgomery: My view is that it is nuclear weapons that prevent the breakout of a third world war.
Mao: I have said that the atom bomb is a paper tiger.
Montgomery: Now many British people are demonstrating to demand the prohibition and destruction of nuclear weapons. I told them, first, withdrawal of troops; second, disarmament; finally, the destruction of nuclear weapons.
Mao: Can an agreement be reached, just as chemical weapons were forbidden during the Second World War, so nobody used chemical weapons? Nobody uses nuclear weapons?
Montgomery: It won't work now. In the first place, the suspicion and distrust between East and West must be got rid of. Hence, it is necessary to return troops to their home countries. That is why I have found no time to visit Japan; I must first work for the realization of my three principles.
Mao: All right. Nuclear weapons are to be prohibited after the realization of the three principles.
Montgomery: I have talked with Marshal Chen Yi and I hope he will talk to the Soviet Union, requesting them to support my three principles.
Mao: He will go to Geneva to participate in the conference on the Laos question. He may meet Gromyko and find a chance to talk about it. I am for it.
*These are excerpts from two talks of Mao Zedong' s with British Field Marshal Montgomery.
(From the verbatim record)